What if you really have no dreams or plans for the future? Are you really stuck, or doomed, to keep living just as things are?
There is a lamp that has been lost on a beach somewhere. It’s like Aladdin’s lamp because when you rub the lamp it releases the genie trapped inside. But this genie is different.
The genie inside this lamp will grant you a wish, but he can’t just give you piles of money or great power (like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp). This genie grant’s wishes of the sort that you can actually achieve yourself if you put in the hard work.
The only trick is that you have to choose what it is you want.
You could be a strong and well-trained athlete who competes at the highest level, or become a talented and beloved musician entertaining people, or be a wildly successful business owner who delivers valuable products to the market for profit.
All you have to do is tell the genie what it is, and then he will tell you where to find your treasure.
Release the genie, sure; but what will you ask for?
But what if, when you released the genie, you didn’t know what to ask for. Instead of happily asking the genie to show you how to make your dream come true, this happened:
The lamp flashed red hot and then smoke poured out of its top. The genie appeared before you, seven feet tall, wrapped in fine silk, his skin glowing with the light of a blue flame. “What is it you seek,” he says. “I will grant you one wish allowing you to do anything you want in this world. But it has to be a thing dear to your heart.”
You look around to see if anyone is watching, stalling for time, because you’re not sure what to ask for. You no longer remember what it is you wanted to be when you grew up.
“Well,” the genie says. “What is it you want?”
You scratch your head and then say, “Honestly, I’m pretty busy already. I have my job. And I watch television after work so my evenings are full. Some weekends I go to the casino, or I go to the outlet mall to shop.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” you say. “I guess I’m good.”
Would you be able to tell the genie what you desired?
The amazing thing is that we all have a genie who will grant our wish. It may not seem like it from where you’re standing now, and the path may not be an easy one to travel in order to find your treasure. But the genie is there for almost every single one of us. He (or she) is waiting for us to answer the question.
Some people don’t know what they want.
The world can be a demanding place and many of us spend our entire lives reacting to circumstances. That’s how it was for me, even though I thought I was in control, I was just reacting.
My genie was there with me, the entire time, waiting for me — decade after decade — to answer the question. In the meantime, I was working a few jobs, solving problems for other people. And I started a family, which brings up a lot more things to react to, and there can be so many things in your life that you don’t believe for a second that you get to do what you want to do with your life. Your life seems like someone else’s life.
I know what you’re thinking: what if my job is exactly what I want to do?
Many people have their dream job, and there’s nothing more to say to you except go to it and enjoy.
But for the rest of us, what do you say to the genie?
If you don’t know exactly what your dream job is, or even in what general area of activity where your dream job exists, how do you tell the genie what you want?
We have to sit a while and think. And it can’t be the type of sitting that you’re accustomed to. You can’t watch television and call it thinking. You can’t play video games on your smartphone and call it thinking. And you can’t click through social media feeds on your computer and call it thinking.
The type of thinking you need to answer the genie is to sit quietly for extended periods of time and wait for you subconscious mind and conscious mind to agree on what it is you want to do.
Where your dreams are buried.
The subconscious mind is the part of your brain that remembers your dreams as a kid, or your plans as a young person for what you wanted to do with your life. It keeps those things that are dear to your heart and never lets go of them. But most of us have spent so many years reacting to circumstances that we’ve piled tons of useless information on top of our dreams and plans, and we need to spend some quiet time to sort through it all and remember.
For me, I wanted to be a novelist, and that’s what I’m working on now. But in the meantime I took jobs working with computers. Although I made a living and raised a family that way, I never fully embraced that career. It always felt like something was missing. It was that computer work was not dear to my heart. I was solving other people’s problems.
I did write novels all that time, but I was not in the field and heavily distracted by my job. I may have done better working in publishing, or teaching, or maybe I just needed to take more classes.
Instead, I kept working on computer problems because they were interesting challenges and paid good money. They just weren’t dear to my heart.
How do you sit quietly and think?
There are a multitude of distractions that will conspire to keep you from thinking. The basic principle is to get away from the distractions long enough for your mind to be assured it doesn’t have to react immediately to the stimuli. Give it a chance, instead, to think about your memories, your life, and your dreams.
Step 1: Make the time in your daily activities to do this. Trust that it will be okay to not respond to email or social media for an hour each day. If your phone rings, you will call them back, whoever it is, in a little while. I presume you make time to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. Make time for this, as well.
Step 2: Find a comfortable, quiet place. You’re going to sit or lie down for a while. Don’t distract yourself with the discomfort of the chair. If you have to get out of the house and do this to protect your time, choose a library or a church rather than a mall or a coffee shop. If you’re new to this, you’ll need to truly minimise distraction.
Step 3: Spend the time in this place, every day, day after day. It may take several days, weeks, or even more than a month to clear your head — even for a few minutes — of the distractions of modern living. More than anything, you are establishing trust with your subconscious to go ahead and discuss what is dear to your heart.
Tips for successfully thinking.
Reserve all judgment. This is a time to explore your memories, dreams, and aspirations. There is no use in complaining about circumstances or criticising yourself. Things just are. Let them be. Find what you want, then go after that.
You can sit still and do nothing, or you may want to use your hands a bit for writing or drawing.
Journaling is an excellent way to get in touch with your subconscious. I used this technique, and the first several months of journaling involved releasing a lot of anger through writing. I was mad at the world, but mostly mad at myself.
You may start with recording daily events, and then expand on thoughts and ideas that pop up into your head. This will eventually lead to memories and your dreams that are dear to your heart.
Doodling is another excellent way. It’s a lot like journaling, but you scribble and make pictures. If it seems like a fun thing to do, get yourself a thick book of drawing paper and a set of pens or pencils, and go doodle.
Colouring books seem like they would work, as well, to engage the mind without becoming yet another distraction. I think, especially, the repetitive nature of colouring may be useful for thinking.
How to know when you’ve spent enough time thinking.
At some point, you’ll discover the thing you always wanted to do or to be. Once rediscovered, that thing will rise up in your consciousness, and appear before you in conversations, dreams, and will want to stay with you.
You will have a choice, then, because the genie will be ready to tell you what you need to do to achieve that dream.
You can either tell the genie and begin this next journey. Or you can allow the distractions of life to bury those dreams, again, until some other day.
The choice, like your dream, is your own.